Pictured top, Andrew Melton and son Sam.

A West Norfolk family farm has joined a UK-wide network dedicated to improving business performance by sharing best practice.

Cereals and oilseed growers Andrew Melton and son Sam, of Peartree Farm, Walpole Highway, have joined the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board’s (AHDB) Monitor Farm programme.

The family, which runs a contract farming operation, uses technology to analyse cost of production and find ways to cut costs without affecting profitability.

Andrew Melton said: “We oversee a complex operation and in the past it’s been hard to bring together data from different sources. Previously everything was centralised and run through the main farm business. 

“Taking advantage of the age of Big Data, we now use lots of different technology on farm to capture information. This allows us to analyse the constituent parts of our business and find out our true costs.”

Being part of the monitor programme means other growers will be able to examine the strengths and weaknesses of their approach to business management.

The father and son will jointly host regular meetings of farmers to discuss regional issues.

The family farms 1,400 hectares and crops wheat, barley, oilseed rape and sugar beet. Its contracting business has grown and clients receive everything from cultivation through to harvest.

“The way we’ve grown our business is something I’m really proud of. We started with just an autumn spraying service. 

“We have taken this forward to diversify into other business opportunities, such as a soil sampling service for potato growers,” Mr Melton said.

The challenges they are keen to explore through the programme include reducing soil tillage with the use of appropriate cover crops, increasing soil health and boosting yield and profitability.

AHDB’s regional knowledge exchange manager Teresa Meadows said: “Farmers participating in these meetings, in this new area for a Monitor Farm, will have much to discuss, learn and share, to progress with business and personal development.”